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Calathea Vittata Care

Goeppertia makoyana (Calathea makoyana), also called peacock plant, is a perennial evergreen plant species belonging to the Goeppertia genus from the Marantaceae family and is indigenous to Brazil.

It usually grows to 18 inches or more, with pale, glossy, green leaves resembling the famous bird’s feathers. The leaves have eye-catching patterns of dark green along the veins on top and corresponding purplish streaks underneath and grow on thin leaf shafts. 

New leaves are usually rolled up like tubes when they sprout, displaying pinkish-red undersides. Like most “prayer plants”, this one also lifts and closes its leaves when night falls and opens up when dawn breaks. 

And similar to other varieties of the genus, it has a horizontal root system of rhizomes where the stems grow from. While it does produce flowers, they are tiny and not as attractive when compared to the leaves.

This plant is beautiful but does need plenty of tender loving care, particularly about satisfying its humidity levels. All the same, it can do well when grown indoors if you meet its growing conditions satisfactorily. 

Peacock plants can grow outdoors if temperatures are suitably warm enough along with sufficient humidity. 

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Sunlight

It prefers shaded or semi-shaded light conditions as it cannot handle direct sunlight – the leaves will appear dull, less effervescent, with its characteristic markings fading and also damaging the leaves. Indirect bright sunshine is the best option for this plant. 

Low light conditions will significantly slow down growth, so a fine balancing act is needed to meet its light requirements.

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Water

Water the plant extensively every week from April – October, its normal growing season, reducing the frequency in winter. Try to collect and use rainwater for the plant, since tap water usually contains fluoride which can damage the leaves. 

Distilled water is another suitable alternative. A good draining pot is key to stop the plant from being water-logged and getting root rot. 

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Humidity

This plant, like other varieties of the genus, enjoys humidity similar to its natural habitat. The ideal levels it needs range around 50-60%. Regularly misting will help to raise humidity levels as well as keeping a humidity tray near the pot. 

Just the same, this may not be helpful enough if you live in a more temperate climate, so you may have to make use of a humidifier. If the humidity drops, brown spots will affect the leaves, with leaf edges and tips also becoming brown. 

Low humidity and dry air can also make leaves yellow and increase the chances of spider mite infestation.

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Temperature

It prefers ideal temperature ranges between 60 – 75°F. Temperatures below 60°F and sudden temperature fluctuations or hot or cold drafts will affect the plant’s growth and might even damage the plant. 

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Soil

It prefers a soil mix of coarse leaf mulch, peat, and sand that drains well yet retains moisture. A mix of 2 measures of peat and 1 measure of perlite or sand will also serve as a good substitute.

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Repotting

Repot once in 2 years when spring begins. This is an ideal time to also consider propagating the plant as you can reduce the size of the plant as well as reuse the same pot. This is advisable since you will get new plants as well as give the original plant room to grow.

If you don’t want to divide the plant, then look for a larger container with a sufficient number of drainage holes filled with appropriate soil. 

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Propagation

This plant, like other varieties in the family, is best propagated by dividing it. Dislodge the plant carefully from its home and separate sections of stems attached to roots (repotting is the ideal time for this). 

Plant the divided sections separately into new pots filled with a suitable soil mix. You can either cover them with plastic until new growth develops to help retain warmth and humidity or you can grow them in the same location as the mother plant. 

When new growth appears, you can uncover the plants and provide them with regular care as the original plant.

Additional Care

It is essential to feed the plant with a ½ strength dilution of liquid fertilizer once in 2 weeks from April – October, its usual growing season. Do not feed it in winter. This is important as it needs nutrients due to its prolific foliage production. 

Foliar sprays containing nitrogen and iron will help if new leaves don’t match the colors of older, mature leaves.

Try not to over-fertilize the plant as the leaves can get damaged.

Common Problems

Red spider mites can frequently attack the plant in dry, low humid conditions, making leaves and stems become pale in color. Treat any infestation immediately with 1 part of alcohol and 3 parts of water or a suitable pesticide to prevent them from infesting other plants.

Moist peat-based soil mixes may draw fungus gnats. Luckily, they won’t harm the plant, but they can multiply rapidly and may infest other indoor plants. Neem oil will help you eliminate them. 

Brown leaf tips normally signify low humid conditions, but could also be due to fluoride in water or too much fertilization. Identify what is the cause and take action to fix the issue – low humidity can be corrected by raising levels by frequent misting or by placing a humidity tray close by or a humidifier. 

If it’s due to fluoride, I would suggest that you have a large container set aside solely for watering and fill it with water the day before to let any chemicals evaporate. If it is due to over-fertilization, don’t feed the plant for a month and resume with a more diluted solution. 

Low humidity can also make the leaves yellow or brown. Humidity is key to keeping this plant thriving so try everything possible to keep the humidity levels over 60%, particularly in winter.

Curling leaves suggest that the plant is being under-watered. The soil should be slightly moist, but not water-logged as root rot will set in.

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